This week’s crop of readers’ letters includes thoughts on the threat to the Bute Elderly Befrienders service, changes to the operation of local charity For Bute, and on the Syrian refugee families coming to Bute.
As ever, to add your views to the debate on any of the topics raised, or any subject of interest to Bute, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday at the latest - though as always, the sooner we hear from you, the better are your chances of seeing your views in print.
Please keep your letters as brief as you can, and remember to include your name and address for publication. We also need a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be printed.
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Befrienders need our support
For most people, Tuesday is nothing special. But for one man I know, Tuesday is the highlight of his week.
Jack is almost 79 and has spent the last 14 years confined to a wheelchair after a stroke which left him paralysed down one side and suffering from epileptic seizures.
He was no longer able to work his beloved allotment, resulting in his days becoming mundane and solitary. Then, a year ago, a good Samaritan entered his life in the form of Pieter, from Bute Elderly Befrienders. When Jack asks if it’s Tuesday, and I answer in the affirmative, his eyes light up and I know he’s already anticipating the warm conradeship and cheery banter he and his other companions who share the ‘Bee Bus’ will enjoy that day on their trip around the island, stopping for a coffee and shortbread on the way.
Sadly, last Tuesday Pieter told Jack that the funding set asite to befriend elderly and vulnerable residents of Bute has not been renewed, and that after January the service would stop unless uther funds can be found.
Jack is devastated, as I’m sure are all the others in the group who benefit from Pieter’s kind, gentle and caring qualities in their lives, bringing them together and enabling them to grow from strangers to friends.
My brain has gone into overdrive as I think on this problem, and I would encourage readers of this letter to give some thought to those who will lose out if this service can’t be saved.
Is there anyone who can think of a way to support the Bute Elderly Befrienders?
Christine Harris (Jack’s wife), 12 Columshill St, Rothesay
A change in approach from For Bute
Living in small communities can bring many benefits. Sometimes it’s easier to get things done because people’s ideas and conversations get shared quickly and when initiatives are positive, other people join in and offer support.
The downside is when ideas and conversation born from strictly personal or negative agendas are also spread, and instead of positive actions emerging, these rest in backroom gossip, unable to be challenged in the light of day.
For Bute is a community thrift shop that has enabled our customers and donors to support life on the island to the tune of more than £60,000 so far. It is registered with, and operates under the regulations set by, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and our charity number is advertised (and always has been) in our shop and on our Facebook and web pages.
Our charter allows us to support initiatives and organisations that deliver educational, social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits to the Isle of Bute.
On a small island, some of those benefits are going to be delivered by community groups, some by individuals, some by charitable organisations and some by commercial enterprise or public sector.
Every request for funds is examined in terms of its value to the quality of life on Bute, how the funds will be used, and whether the request is costed realistically.
We take our responsibility to our customers and donors very seriously. When we have to turn down a request, it is usually because it does not represent best value in terms of benefit to the community.
For example, For Bute contributed to the Waverley preservation fund because we felt it made sense to support an operation that brings thousands of visitors to Bute each year.
And while there is public sector funding for health and education, funds to add the ‘extras’ such as books and materials for children with learning difficulties or furnishings and a cooker for the palliative care unit in the Victoria, will clearly make a difference to the services being offered.
Finally, who would argue that the lengthy closure of the Loch Fad fishery did not have a negative impact on our B&Bs, restaurants, shops and pubs as much, or in some cases even more than, on the fishery itself, and hurt the island’s tourism sector overall?
Every time we give away money, it is published in The Buteman, and publicised on our sites. This transparency should be standard operating procedure for any charity or organisation that depends on the donations, goodwill and custom of the public.
There has always been an informal, anti-bureaucratic quality to our operations, which is part of life in a relatively small community: people make suggestions for good causes through chit-chat or by jotting them down in ‘the book’ in the shop and requests for funds can be made and received in person, in the street, café or pub.
Sadly, we are forced to introduce a new formality to our operations, in response to the type of backroom gossip and actions arising from the type of negative motives discussed at the start of this letter.
From now on, funding requests will need to be made on a form which is now available on our website (www.ForBute.org) and in the For Bute shop.
Criteria for approvals and rejections will be noted on the form and returned to the applicant.
In addition, we will continue to take appeals against rejections (as we always have), but rather than make time for these in the street, café or pub, the appeal will need to be made in writing, with a clear demonstration of how the request has been amended to respond to the applicant’s previous failure to meet criteria for approval.
For Bute is the only Bute-based charity that depends solely on volunteers and gives one hundred per cent of its profits to good causes on Bute. Our success contributes to the island’s success and depends totally on the goodwill of people who donate to and shop with us. So if you have any questions, please feel free to ask us!
Marlene Hill (chair, For Bute community thrift shop), 47 Victoria Street, Rothesay
Should Bute be welcoming Syrian familes?
The Editor (The Buteman, November 6) laments the fact that not all on Bute will welcome the refugees.
Should he be surprised, though, if people don’t welcome them?
Perhaps the local population will feel aggrieved that their opinions were not sought before an invitation was extended. Politicians, as we all know, can’t be trusted when they claim to speak for ‘most people’.
A few direct questions usually gets to the truth of the matter, such as:
Has the editor asked ACHA and Fyne Homes if they have a waiting list for social housing and how large is that list?
If there is a long list, perhaps local people will wonder why ACHA and Fyne Homes can produce 15 houses for refugees when they have a large
waiting list. Valid questions that should not be dismissed as ‘not in my back yard!’. As the local paper, The Buteman should be to the fore in asking these questions.
I have every sympathy for local people who are not happy with refugees being imposed on their area.
I live in Springburn, Glasgow, and we know that feeling very well.
My landlord, the West of Scotland Housing Association, revealed in a Scottish Social Housing Charter report to Tenants in 2014 that their waiting list for housing totalled 2,023.
They also boasted in the same report that the SNP’s Humza Yousaf had said they provided the best housing services for refugees in Glasgow.
I’m sure the 2,023 on the waiting list wondered why the association was boasting about that when they had 2,023 on their waiting list.
The answer, unfortunately, is that all are equal but some are more equal than others!
Our community was never asked or consulted whether we need a large influx of refuges and asylum seekers.
Since the days of conflict in Kosovo we have seen our opinions and needs taking second place to refugees and asylum seekers in our community.
Our young people who have grow up in our community can’t get social housing, yet refugees and asylum seekers don’t seem to have a problem there.
It’s our families who get split up. Of course, we don’t have politicians, pressure groups and the politically correct speaking out on our young people’s behalf.
Most local people don’t speak out about this state of affairs in public, they are afraid of being accused of being racist.
In private, it’s a different situation. A sad reflection on modern democracy.
Didn’t Cameron, Blair, Brown, et al, say it is not racist to discuss immigration? In any case, who’s listening? Not the politicians, that’s for sure!
As to the editor’s comments, local papers should reflect the views of the local community above all else, not the editor’s.
To suggest that Bute is deficient because “through no fault of it’s own it is not very multicultural” is appalling. I am not aware that multiculturalism is compulsory. It happens or it doesn’t.
It doesn’t mean a community is a second class community because “it’s not very multicultural”.
Also, a community that looks after its own is a community worth preserving. It shouldn’t change merely because the politically correct think it should.
Alex Saville, 2/1, 224 Gourlay Street, Springburn, Glasgow
Craig Borland writes: I don’t usually respond directly to letter-writers but there are several points Mr Saville makes that I would prefer to tackle right now, rather than leave them unchallenged for a week in the hope that others might respond.
First, and Mr Saville may well simply not be aware of this: Bute does have capacity in its social housing stock (as Fyne Homes confirms in our latest issue) and in its schools - more so than in any other area of Argyll and Bute. We’ve already reported the council as saying that’s why Bute was suggested as the first place in the area which could welcome displaced Syrian families.
On the issue of a local paper reflecting the views of its community: we do that every single week, without fail, in our news stories and our letters pages and on our website and social media accounts, regardless of whether we personally agree with them.
Our editorial column is where Karen and I express our own views. And surely, having been happy to allow everyone else space to express their own opinions, we are entitled to a wee corner in which to share ours?
Our views will chime with some readers and not with others. That’s fine by us: it would be a dull world indeed if we all thought the same. And anyway, such is the diversity of views on pretty much any subject you can think of that we’d never have space to fit all those opinions in our own column.
At no point did I suggest Bute was deficient because it is not very multicultural. I do not believe that to be the case. As I hoped was clear, it was not a criticism, merely an observation of the challenge the island faces.
Nor do I feel that 15 Syrian families, left homeless and penniless and displaced from their home country as a result of a devastating war over which they have no control, are being imposed on me. Some people might ask ‘why Bute?’: having moved here myself 13 years ago, with no prior connection to the island, I’ve found it’s a great place to live. So why not give others the chance to find out the same thing?